"Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes." ~Publishers Weekly review of Eolyn

"The characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst." ~Publishers Weekly review of High Maga

Friday, January 17, 2014

HIGH MAGA: The Scene That Inspired the Cover

Before beginning his work on the cover art for High Maga, Thomas Vandenberg read both the new novel and its previously published companion, Eolyn.  He asked me if I had any preferences for the cover image.  I did have some ideas, but I chose not to share these with him before he had a chance to read the stories.  I wanted to find out what would appeal to Tom's imagination as an artist. In the end, one of the three scenes he proposed to illustrate was also on my list of favorites:  Eolyn's first confrontation with a Naether Demon. 

Here I give you a brief preview of the chapter that inspired the cover of High Maga:  

High Maga

Chapter 9 (excerpt)

The energy of the forest pulsed at their feet, poised to respond to Sir Borten's bidding.

“There is your magic, Sir Borten," said Eolyn. "Now here is what you must do. Bring together all the elements you just told me about, the earth beneath you, the air in your lungs, the water in your cup, and the fire in your heart. Imagine all of it coming together into a single brilliant point of light, and when you see that light, repeat these words: Ehekahtu naeom tzefur. Ehukae.”

The night thickened with Borten's effort. After a moment, magic coursed up from the ground through his legs, filling his torso, wrapping around his heart. The strength of the vortex pulled a second current from Eolyn, and her magic tingled as it passed from her hands into his back. He drew a steady breath and exhaled the verse.

Eolyn withdrew.

Borten turned to face her. Steam rose from the cup of water in his hands. His expression was incredulous, jubilant.

Eolyn clapped in joy. “You see, Sir Borten? It is not so difficult after—”

Agonized screams ripped through her words. With a frightened cry, Eolyn took off toward the girls. She burst into the adjacent clearing and stopped short at the sight of a beast that swayed on long glowing limbs, a set of gaping pits where the eyes and mouth should have been. In one ebony-clawed hand it held Sirena, her chest torn open from throat to sternum, the shredded bodice black with blood.

Eolyn’s vision blurred. Her heart imploded. She clutched at her ribs, breath reduced to ragged gasps, knees buckling beneath her. Borten caught one arm and hauled her to her feet. Their eyes met.

All your senses open.

The knight released her and approached the monster with sword drawn.

Eolyn forced back the grief that had scattered her thoughts.

All your spirit focused on the task at hand.

Mariel crouched in the shadows, clutching Eolyn’s staff. Tears streamed down the girl’s face. Her shoulders shook like leaves on the wind.

“Mariel.” Eolyn’s voice was calm. “Set down my staff and climb the beech behind you, as quick and high as you can.”

“But Maga Eolyn—”

“Do as I say. If this goes badly, you are not to come down until dawn.”

 With a sob the young maga fled up the tree. Eolyn called the staff to her. The water crystal ignited, casting an ivory light over the dwindling fire, illuminating the creature in full. The beast groaned, a needy howl born of insatiable hunger.

Eolyn stepped forward, coming around to Borten’s left.

“Stay behind me,” he ordered.

“Your sword may not be enough,” she replied.